Drivers need to put down their phones and drive or risk being fined under new law

July 20, 2017

New Distracted Driving Law

Effective July 23, , Washington drivers will not be permitted to hold or operate hand-held electronic devices while they are driving. Use of devices such as cell phones, tablets, video-games and laptops to text, access information, take pictures and talk, even while stopped in traffic, is prohibited under the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (DUIE) Act. “Hands-free” devices such as mounted dashboard screens and Bluetooth can be used legally, but only with a single touch to start use.

*Exemptions include drivers using a personal electronic device to contact emergency services; certain transit employees and commercial drivers (within the scope of their employment) and drivers operating authorized emergency vehicles.

In the U.S., distracted driving caused 3,477 traffic deaths in 2015, a 9 percent increase from the year before, and “a deadly epidemic,” according to the National Safety Council. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), 71 percent of distracted drivers are engaging in the most dangerous distraction, using their cell phones behind the wheel. The new law in Washington is part of Target Zero, a statewide initiative to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by the year 2030.

Currently, texting or holding a cellphone to the ear while driving carries a fine of $124 in Washington State. Starting July 23, using a hand-held device while driving will be considered a primary offense and law enforcement will be issuing fines $136-$234 to violators. In addition, a citation will be added to your driving record and reported to insurance providers. You can also receive a $99 ticket for other types of distractions such as grooming, smoking, eating, or reading if the activity interferes with safe driving, and you are pulled over for another traffic offense.

The WTSC recommends the following tips for complying with the new law:

  1. Turn off your phone and put it in the glove box
  2. If you’re a passenger, hold the driver’s phone
  3. Don’t text or call a friend or loved one if you know they are driving
  4. If using GPS on your phone, plug in the address before you start the car and use a mounted phone holder
  5. Talk to family members (especially teen drivers) about the risks of cell phone use. Model responsible behavior by not using your phone while in the car

For more information about the new law visit http://www.wadrivetozero.com/distracted-driving.


Car in texting fatal crash on display at state capitol

May 5, 2010

by Mark Horner

“I’m getting chills as I read this.”

Those words this morning from one passerby as she paused to look at a mangled car and read the story on a nearby poster.

The car was driven by 19-year-old Heather Lerch earlier this year.  Her parents say Heather was texting when the vehicle left the road and struck a guardrail, killing the young woman instantly.  The February 23rd crash unfolded shortly before 10:30pm on Littlerock Road in Thurston County.

The vehicle is one of numerous displays on the plaza of the Capitol Campus in Olympia today where Public Service Recognition Week is being recognized.

The Department of Licensing recently produced two videos about Heather’s story.  A new state law concerning cell phones takes effect June 10.  The law makes texting while driving a primary offense.  It also makes using a hand-held cell for phone calls while driving a primary offense.


Friday’s distracted driving news conference

May 3, 2010

Licensing director Liz Luce speaks to reporters about using cell phones while driving on Friday, April 30 in Parkland, Wash.

Go to http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/distracteddriving.html for more information on the dangers of distracted driving.